Dressing professionally and appropriately is an important aspect of attending a conference. Conferences are a great opportunity to present your work, network with other professionals, and to expand your knowledge of the profession. First-time conference goers, however, may be faced with a very important question—what do I wear?
Know the Event
Some conferences will include guidelines for attire along with the information they provide about the event. As a rule of thumb, 1-day conferences usually require more professional attire. For these events, you’ll want to dress nicer than you typically would for work—think interview wear. Pull out that 3-piece suit, shine your shoes, and stick to conservative accessories.
Conferences that occur over a few days, however, will typically have slightly more relaxed dress codes. Business casual is appropriate for these events, and this can include slacks, skirts, button-down shirts and blouses, and dresses. If there are no dress code details available, ask! Don’t be afraid to ask the organizers of the conference or colleagues who have attended the conference in the past. You can even tap into your network of professionals and ask about appropriate dress for the event on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Conferences often hold social and networking events in the evenings that may require you to dress up or down. But if you are traveling to the event, bringing many clothing options may not be possible. Instead of stuffing your suitcase full of clothes for every possible event, pack basic pieces in neutral colors for versatility.
Layering will help to achieve different looks—and will keep you warm in cold conference rooms. Blazers can make an outfit more professional, while cardigans can turn a dressier look more casual. Accessories, such as jewelry and belts, can help to dress up your outfit. For women, shoes can also help set the tone of an outfit—flats will create a more casual look, while heels will set a dressier tone.
No matter the official dress code for the conference, always look polished and professional. You are representing yourself and your school or company. If the attire is casual, leave your well-loved acid wash jeans at home and opt instead for dark wash denim free of frayed edges and holes. Polos and blouses are appropriate, and the whole look can be brought together with some simple accessories.
Tips for Travel
If you are traveling to a conference, try on all outfits before you pack them to be sure you are comfortable in the clothes and to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions. If you have room, pack extra clothing, just in case. Upon arriving, unpack and hang-up your professional wear immediately to avoid wrinkles.